Adventures in energy purging

The Kitchen-Kuiacks were environmentalists before the movement was even trendy. In the '80s, Marguerite and her husband Brian started storing glass bottles and tins beneath their Marsh Lake cabin.

The Kitchen-Kuiacks were environmentalists before the movement was even trendy.

In the ‘80s, Marguerite and her husband Brian started storing glass bottles and tins beneath their Marsh Lake cabin.

They were waiting in anticipation for the Whitehorse recycling facility to open.

It didn’t matter to them that they ended up warehousing the bottles for four years and trucking all their boxes of recycling with them when they moved homes.

When the couple hiked the Chilkoot Trail with their first child, they swaddled their baby in cloth diapers.

When it rained for the whole hike, Marguerite strapped her daughter’s freshly washed diapers to her legs to dry.

It’s no surprise the family is being featured in a Canadian Geographic Energy Diet Challenge.

The four-member household is battling it out with five other families across the country to see who can shrink their carbon footprint the most.

It’s not going to be easy, however.

The family lives 30 minutes from Whitehorse and drives in and out each day for work and school.

Also, their old log house isn’t as tightly sealed as it could be.

But the Kitchen-Kuiacks already have a leg up on the competition.

After the first week of the challenge, the family is in the lead.

“The challenge forces you to try harder, to go that extra mile,” said Marguerite, explaining they’d strayed from the dedicated environmentalists they were in the 1980s.

“We had a dream of raising our kids on the land,” she said.

“The reality is that we’re driving a lot into town and spend at least $950 a month on gas.”

But a lot of their driving each month isn’t to and from town, it’s actually in town.

“We need to plan our route in town better,” said Brian.

As the only family from the North, the Kitchen-Kuiacks are cognizant of their role representing northerners.

“Northerners are energy conscious,” said Brian.

“People buy wood up here to heat their homes, a local, sustainable energy source that has a very small footprint compared to oil.”

And kids dress more warmly up here for the winter rather than cranking up the heat, said Marguerite, looking at her 12-year-old daughter Marika.

The two teenage Kitchen-Kuiack girls have gone whole-hog in the challenge, even sacrificing showers to take “baby showers,” shorter douses with a low-flow shower head.

This week, the family saved 57 litres in water.

Because the challenge rates families on their relative energy consumption, the Kitchen-Kuiacks won’t be at a disadvantage with families down South who are still enjoying summer-like weather.

Aside from tracking energy consumption, the three-month challenge also involves an “urban challenge” and a “driving challenge.”

Driving challenge participants meet in Ontario to see who can drive the farthest on one litre of gasoline.

The family’s 17-year-old daughter, Simone, has volunteered to be the driver in that race.

Simone and Marika have dedicated a lot of their time to this challenge, said Marguerite.

The girls have filmed short clips of the family to upload to the energy challenge website and they help post blogs several times a week.

“It’s important to get my friends to cut down on their energy waste,” said Marika.

Although the prize is an incentive to do the challenge, it’s not the only reason the family is competing.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Marguerite.

“If we change our habits and sustain our habits and save money, then that’s a big win for us.”

But the opportunity of winning a fuel-efficient Prius is definitely a motivation, said Brian, explaining the irony of winning a car in an environmental change isn’t lost on the family.

The Prius, however, is one of the most efficient on the market, he points out.

The Kitchen-Kuiacks head to Calgary this weekend for their urban challenge.

Over the next three weeks, they’ll be rated on the number of online votes they receive, the quantity and quality of their blog posts, their overall energy reduction and the amount of innovation and creativity they display.

The challenge wraps up on December 4.

You can follow and vote for the Kitchen-Kuiacks at

Contact Vivian Belik at

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